After Hurricane Maria, multiple U.S. Department of Energy laboratories studied the state of the electric grid in Puerto Rico and analyzed grid resilience and grid integration of renewable energy. As part of the work done at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, researchers created new solar resource data, conducted a technical potential and supply curve analysis, and studied the interannual variability of the solar resource. A new methodology was developed to downscale solar resource data from the National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB) from a 4-km x 4-km spatial and 30-minute temporal resolution to a 2kmx2km and 5-minute resolution. This methodology primarily used simple physical principles to develop high-resolution cloud properties which were then used to compute solar radiation. The high-resolution datasets were validated against ground measurements and the error metrics were found to be similar to the original lower resolution dataset. Using 20 years of downscaled data from the NSRDB multi-year capacity factors for photovoltaics (PV) were developed for both single-axis tracking and fixed latitude-tilt configurations. Use of the multi-year data provides the ability to understand variability in capacity factors due to variability in weather over a long period of time. For Puerto Rico the coastal regions were found to have significant higher capacity factors than inland. Using land-use and terrain information a technical potential analysis was conducted for Puerto Rico. This analysis restricted single PV plant development to a maximum of 100 MW nameplate capacity. The nameplate capacity for each municipality were then determined. Based on our assumptions, 56 of the 78 total municipalities of Puerto Rico contain some level of solar capacity. Most of the interior municipalities did not have any capacity because of the geographic exclusions used in this study. The lowest capacity for a PV plant observed in a municipality was 10 MW. The maximum capacity within a county was 2,000 MW. Further a supply curve analysis was conducted by taking the results of the technical potential and quantifying system and transmission costs. The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) was calculated for each theoretical PV plant site, and the levelized cost of transmission was added to the LCOE to produce a total cost estimate for each site. The results of the supply curve analysis allow for a relative comparison of the cost for integrating new PV capacity into the grid. This analysis indicates that cheaper total LCOE sites tend to be larger in capacity. The total capacity in this study was found to be far beyond the maximum peak load for the island. However, this study does not consider the economic and market potential for development. The cumulative capacity presented in this study assumes that the best locations are developed first and ignores the complex decision paths for new power plant development. Therefore, this analysis can only be treated as illustrative. Finally this study investigates the impact of inter-annual variability of resource using a variety of metrices including probability of exceedance and variation in capacity factor and LCOE. This study demonstrates that the capacity factor or LCOE could vary by over 10% year to year. This clearly indicates the risks involved in using any particular year of data and clearly points to the use of multi-year data to reduce some of the risks related to variability in weather.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5D00-75524


  • Puerto Rico
  • solar radiation
  • supply curve
  • technical potential
  • variability


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying Solar Energy Resource for Puerto Rico'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this